Having already waded through the difficult task of laying off eight percent of its staff months ago, members of the Payson Unified School District board quietly approved Monday night an $18 million budget for 2011 — six percent smaller than the year before.
Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Bobette Tomerlin said the district’s most significant challenges were increasing health care costs and decreased state funding. Even after switching providers, the district’s health insurance jumped 28 percent for 2011.
The most significant changes included the loss of at least 18 staffers, including four administrators — two of whom were principals — and a slew of teachers.
Kathe Ketchem, formerly principal for just the alternative Payson Center for Success, will also head Payson High School, and Will Dunman, principal of Payson Elementary School, will also lead Frontier Elementary School.
Also, the district will no longer offer free all-day kindergarten. Parents must pay $185 per month for the service. Slightly more than two sections of students had signed up as of Monday night.
Still undetermined is which schools will host the program, and also how the district will help smooth the potential disadvantage of students not enrolled in the all-day program. District officials are still discussing options.
Fortunately for the district, voters in March approved a budget override that helped stave off further cuts.
Nonetheless, teachers and staff will face increased responsibilities without more pay, and little money for supplies.
Soft capital, which funds items like textbooks and computers, fell by half, to $185,000.
Spending for classroom instruction fell by 2.5 percent, to $5.8 million.
The district lost nearly $88,000 in special funds for class size reduction, but gained $59,000 for a dropout prevention program.
Overall, the district will receive an extra $33,000 for special education programs. Many programs, including those for autism and emotional disabilities, will receive less funding. However, the special education department will receive an extra $25,000 for developmentally delayed kids, up to $109,000, and an extra $80,000 for severely delayed preschool children, up to $125,000.
Also, about 114 fewer students netted a loss of $400,000. This coming year, the district will gain five students from Clints Well. The students previously attended Winslow public schools, but a dispute between the district that buses them and Winslow resulted in a switch to Payson, said Payson Superintendent Casey O’Brien.
Normally, the district holds a public hearing at least one meeting before adopting the budget. This year, however, the public hearing occurred during the same meeting where the board approved the budget’s final version because of timing issues.
Board members offered no comment before approving the document.